Breeding animals lost to severe weather

Breeding animals lost to severe weather

As the thaw begins after some of the worst March snow in years, the scale of the loss of breeding animals has become apparent.

The NFU has called on both Defra and the National Fallen Stock Company (NFSCo) to help those farmers who have suffered heavy losses by providing a temporary, free collection service for animals killed by the snow.

Drifts of over 20 feet deep have been reported in parts of the Pennines, West Yorkshire, Cumbria, the Midlands and Wales; and though the snowfall was spread over large parts of the country, the worst of the losses appear to be highly localised with some areas reporting the deaths of thousands of breeding ewes.

Legislation means that farmers have been faced with bills amounting to thousands of pounds to have the stock collected and disposed of. Although Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government have announced limited derogations to allow on- farm burial, the scale of loss on some farms makes that practically impossible. The alternative of collection is yet another pressure on those farmers struggling with the effects of the weather.

Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman, said: “As the snow begins to recede, farmers are uncovering more dead sheep in the snow and numbers are starting to mount in farm yards. We are receiving reports of farms with hundreds of breeding sheep that have been lost in drifts; aside from the long term impact that losing this number of breeding animals has on the farming business, they will now be faced with a bill of several thousand pounds for disposal.

“We have had tremendous support from the public who have seen how hard farmers have been working to ensure their sheep make it through the worst of the weather. We have even seen members of the public travel to the areas affected to assist farmers in finding sheep in the drifts. This is the Big Society working in practice and we now look to government to play its part by dealing with the stock that unfortunately perished.

“We understand the relaxations that have been announced, but burying large numbers of animals on farm is not realistic. We need government and the NFSCo, which was set up to find ways of reducing the cost of fallen stock disposal, to come up with a plan using contingency funding to move these animals from farm without charge for those farmers and dispose of them responsibly.”

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